Thursday, 27 June 2013

Doors OR T-I-M-E, Exits and Entrances

[Update March 14 2018] In the death of Professor Stephen Hawking announced today, the world has just lost a great and truly inspiring man.]

Now, although I have every confidence in the hospital team treating me for the prostate cancer with hormone therapy, I have days when I could feel myself slipping into a depression about it all. Having taught myself to recognize and acknowledge the signs, I knew I had to act or free fall into the abyss. [The abyss and I are old adversaries, but I like to think I can get the upper hand now so long as I don’t let myself go into denial.]

From time to time, I have a really BAD day and (with some difficulty I have to say) need to think myself into philosophical mode; from there, it is only a few metaphorical steps into positive thinking mode, and from there but a hop, skip and a jump into writing mode. Today’s poem is the result of a form of self-help therapy much practiced by yours truly.

What is ‘now’? It is always ‘now’. Now is eternal, like time and space. We are ‘Now’. We are from ‘Now’. We are heading for ‘Now’.

What, I wonder, what will our ‘Now’ be like once we arrive at journey’s end, shaped by the choices we have made or left unmade? Whatever, we can but try to arrive at a ‘Now’ that offers a better, kinder existence than its history has shown us (or it) far.


Whenever asked where I come from,
I answer, my mother’s womb,
yet a sense, too, of being somewhere
distant, unknown, as if crossing
mythical territories of time and space
just to get there

When asked about my goals in life,
(prompted by what motivation?)
I have confess I’ve never been sure
which doors are left ajar for us
just to take a peep, our choice, whether
or not we enter.

Some people have made accusations
against me, suggesting I’m sitting
on some rickety, metaphorical fence
rather than face what I might find
should I jump off, explore the potential
for mind and spirit

Stung by the rebuke, I flung them open,
these doors left ajar to tease me,
daring me try translating hieroglyphics
lining mother’s womb, luring me
into a vast maze of corridors whose dust
will host my tomb

I've asked of my self where I come from
and it answersd, my mother’s womb,
invoking, too, a sense of having been
somewhere (very) distant, unknown,
crossing vast territories of time and space
just to get here

Now when asked about goals in life,
(prompted by what motivation?)
I have to confess I’ve rarely been able
to decide between doors left ajar 
just for the peeping and others intending
I should enter

On womb, tomb, and in-between doors,
find hieroglyphics writing up 
a (much ghosted) autobiography of life
and death, often taken for graffiti 
on this ‘n’ that door slamming on us
if (never) quite shut

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

Monday, 24 June 2013

Unfinished Symphony

Strange, isn't it, how one recalls the oddest things about school days...?  I was listening to a bird singing its heart out on our classroom window sill and missed a question put to me by my English Teacher. Without thinking, I confessed the reason, adding for good measure that it sounded as if it was trying to tell us something. (I was known to be something of a dreamer even in those days and had written poems for the school magazine for which I was often mocked although never nastily). 

The rest of the class burst out laughing. 

My ears burned on receipt of some good-natured jeering. Expecting a reprimand, I was surprised (and not a little relieved) when the teacher commented, 'Nature is always trying to tell us something, Taber. The trouble is, only the likes of painters and poets can ever be bothered to listen. Now, where was I...?" whereupon he proceeded with the lesson without my ever knowing what his question had been.

This poem is a villanelle.


Music of the Earth
invoking an eternity,
at birth and rebirth

Come sorrow, mirth,
(its womb, our history)
Music of the Earth

Marking a sure dearth
of inclusive humanity;
at birth and rebirth

Nature, all its worth
(for bliss, for agony)
Music of the Earth 

Playing its life-death,
(unfinished) symphony;
at birth and rebirth

Human spirit, breath
of freedom in captivity;
Music of the Earth
at birth and rebirth

Copyright R N. Taber 2009

Friday, 21 June 2013

H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, Time's Footprints

Sometimes, we can be walking along without a care in the world, and then we spot something, as often as not quite trivial, that triggers a chain reaction taking us to places we would have much preferred to avoid…and once there, struggle to find our way back again.


Scraps of a letter floating down a gutter,
pricking the occasional comfort zone

Wondering about blue ink stains, inwardly
debating the when, whose, and why

Doesn’t matter, of course, all history now,
heading in pieces for the nearest drain

Yet, someone had once made time to write,
feel, read (send?) decide to throw away

Secrets passing between lovers found out,
and punished, disowned…ever forgiven?

Friends, family, stranded on opposite sides
of some socio-cultural-religious divide?

Had someone discovered, betrayed, turned
finer feelings into anonymous ink stains?

Tearful, over scraps of a letter, potentially
sucking the life out of any one of us

Bad memories eagerly mowed down by rolls
of thunder, over anxious to leave no trace

Rain! Gutter, a river, scraps gone to sewage
under a city that stinks of rotten secrets

[Note: An earlier version of this poem appears in Accomplices To Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Beware, I Play Dirty

I am no extravert. Indeed, there was a time when I was a near nervous wreck for having to go our there and meet people. But every stranger is a potential friend, and that's a good way of thinking to get into.

There was a time, too, when I was more than a little paranoid and thought everyone was looking at me, talking about me, judging me...and not only for my sexuality, but how I look, dress...everything about me. Yet, as my dear, late mother once pointed out (but I ignored at the time)...even if that were true, all the while they are having a go at me, they are leaving someone else alone. So I (eventually) managed to substitute paranoia with a sense of stoicism which, in turn, gradually metamorphosed into a growing self-confidence. 

I once commented to a young man buying drinks in a gay bar (it could have been anywhere, of course) that I admired his self-confidence, He laughed, “Me, self- confident? Don’t you believe it, mate. It’s all an act.” He winked and gave me this advice as he went to join his boyfriend, “Try it and see.” So I did, and it worked.

Oh, I never found the degree of self-confidence that young man exuded, but at least I was on track for getting a life. Besides, regarding my sexuality at least, it was the kind of life I really wanted for myself, not the one I had been made to feel for years that I should want. 

Self-confidence and faith in a sense of our own personal identity is a lesson I suspect many of us would do well to learn, gay or straight, male or female, whatever our socio-cultural-religious background.  Sexuality, for example, is only part of the human equation, an equation that can add up to a prize fight in more ways than one...but worth it (surely?) to establish who we are, not only to others, but more importantly to ourselves.

This poem is a kenning.


I am with you in sickness
and health, especially in early hours
as you toss and turn,
fretting over a seemingly huge gulf
between early ambition
and later achievement in a mind’s eye
whose vision blurred
by lack of sleep and paying attention
to speculation and gossip

I will seize upon your senses,
throw them into chaos like martyrs
thrown to lions
and torn to pieces for the satisfaction
of a cheering audience
only, on this occasion an audience
of but one, reduced to tears
by the frustration of feeling helpless
to effect a rescue

I have all the tools of torture
required to force you to admit flaws
in judgments made,
paths of action chosen for fear
of what might happen
if no choice made at all, when perhaps
it may have been wiser
to reassign the Devil to hindmost
than imagine the worst

Call me Self-Doubt. Be sure I’ll play dirty
with anyone picking a fight with me...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Sunday, 16 June 2013

A Long Walk By The Sea

Today’s little poem was written in 1999 and appeared (in its original form) in a poetry magazine (Psychopoetica No. 45) as well as an anthology, With Poetic Grace, Anchor Books (Forward Press) 2000 before I included it in my first major collection. Even so, reading it again from a distance of some fourteen years, I felt compelled to revise it slightly. 

Now, regular readers will know that I have suffered from depression since childhood ( will be 68 later this years) which is the main reason I started putting pen to paper. Creative therapy is a life-line for people like me.

When feeling low, a walk by the sea in all weathers and at any time of day will send me into positive thinking mode and keep me from falling into that awful free-fall that is depression at its worst. I live in London and sometimes a stroll on nearby Hampstead Heath will do the trick, but more often than not I will catch a train to a favourite spot near or far, and spend some time by the sea.  


Some readers may also be interested in a video - shot by my friend Graham Collett in 2012 for my You Tube channel - over which I read two other poems; it shows yours truly walking by the sea on Brighton beach. (See 'Front Seat' in the search field or click on the link below; both poems can be found on the blog and also in the accompanying description.]:


The sea, the sea! Mocking me 
with poems of Love, Peace, Happiness, 
and a gutsy immortality
I could only ever but guess

At work, even at play
I took to wearing masks for faces, 
hid this one well away
under various airs and graces

Then upon my life you came,
began peeling away at the skin;
I resisted, never the same 
once I saw sense and let you in

The sea, the sea! You and me forever, 

Copyright R. N. Taber 2009; 2013

[Note: An earlier version of this poem first appeared in 1st eds. of Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber Assembly Books, 2001;revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Autumn, Season of Silences

When barely spring here in the UK, it is already autumn in some parts of the world. An Australian reader living and working in London ‘and feeling homesick’ asked for an autumn poem. [I lived in Australia once, a long time ago, and would love to go back as fate had it in for me and I wasn't able to stay as long as I planned, Sadly, the travel insurance due to my prostate cancer is prohibitive so I suspect I never will.]


One long, lovely summer
once I spent with you
till fallen angels broke cover;
enter autumn, on cue

Our time together near over,
we were as leaves
on a grieving sycamore
falling like tears

Drifting, piling on a grave
of broken promises
all the love we’ll never have
for all our kisses

Saddest of autumn dreams,
unspoken poems

Copyright R. N. Taber 2004

[Note: This poem was first published in an anthology, Shades of Autumn, Anchor Books [Forward Press] 2004 and subsequently in A Feeling for the Quickness of Time by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2005]

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Only the Lonely OR Dawn Prelude, Mind over Matter

They say we dream the more intensely just before we wake up.

Many if not most people love to dream of waking in a loved one’s arms.

Some such dreams do come true, of course, but not for everyone. and not without our having to first 'get real' by fighting off off any self-consciousness, getting out there to try and meet that special someone, instead of sitting back and waiting for him or her to simply come our way. In the meantime, we get to meet some interesting people, make some good friends, broaden our horizons and generally acquire a social identity more likely to make us an altogether more interesting person to know, perchance to love…

Positive thinking can defeat even the worst nightmares, especially when it becomes a habit likely to surface from even murkiest depths of the human subconscious.


Seconds before dawn,
caressed by a velvety dark,
seduced by its charms;
safe in Someone’s arms,
stuff of dreams

Seconds before dawn,
taste and smell of silence
invading the senses;
poetry in Someone’s arms,
myth of dreams

Seconds before dawn,
laughing among old gods
before answering
a wake-up call to arms,
save our dreams

Suddenly, dawn strikes
the first blow in a battle royal
and we must get real,
senses alerted to terror’s
war on dreams

From mortality, poor protection;
in dreams...salvation?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2007, 2018

[Note: This poem first appears under the title 'Dawn Prelude, Mind over Matter' in Accomplices to Illusion by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2007]

Monday, 3 June 2013

Through a Glass Darkly or Uncomfortable Truths, Angels with Dirty Faces

An earlier version of this poem as first published in the anthology An Immortal Truth, Poetry Now [Forward Press] 2000 and subsequently in my first collection the following year.

The original version was written in 1984 following a discussion with several peers about how awful we were sometimes when we were children and how, whenever we look in memory’s mirror for those halcyon days, maturity invariably summons certain regrets that, in turn, cause cracks to appear...

To see “through a glass” (mirror) darkly” is to have an obscure or imperfect vision of reality. The expression is usually presumed to have come from the writings of Paul, the Apostle who suggests that while we may not see clearly in the Here-and-Now, we will do so at the end of time.

Whatever, many if not most children, may well know right from wrong, but lack the experience maturity brings to imagine the broader consequences of either. 


In a pretty side street, tree lined,
its children playing hide-and-seek
make plenty din enough
to wake the dead, the old man says
who lives on the ground floor
of an end house whose shiny steps
such fun we slip, towering wall
a thrill to squeal and climb, knowing
yell and fuss, but by the time he’ll rush,
no sign of us

Waving a stick, he’ll bawl us out
and we’ll mouth him back, but not until
the door slams shut. Oh, but kids
at play make no excuses, just din enough
to wake the dead, the old man says,
treading the ground floor of the end house
whose mossy steps so snug we sprawl,
graffiti wall a joy to lean, grubby curtains
a-quiver at our kissing or could it be for all
he’s missing...?

Children gone, traffic enough
to wake the dead, the old man said
who lived that shabby room
whose crabby gloom we never spared;
brave wall, a sorry spread,
no curtains (windows boarded up instead)
ghosts playing hide-and-seek
with eternity facing a bleak affinity
for wings circling the last tree left standing,
cracks in a mirror appearing

 Uncomfortable truths, a cruelty enduring...

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2011